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When the sun was shining, the pandemic felt that bit more bearable. Afternoons could be spent exercising outdoors, sprucing up the garden if you’re lucky enough to have one, or enjoying the sun on your face by an open window if not.
But it seems the sun has given up. xc
Stephen Buckley, head of information at mental health charity Mind, previously told HuffPost UK many of us will experience mood changes in relation to the weather. “It’s not unusual to feel more cheerful when the sun is shining and the days are longer,” he said, “or to find that you eat more or sleep longer in winter.”
The impacts of grey days can feel particularly acute for people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). So how can you brighten your mood when the sun shows no signs of playing ball?
Re-think the rain
Instead of shaking an angry fist at the clouds, take a moment to appreciate their beauty as they swirl above your head, or listen, really listen, to the rain drops hitting the window. If you take a step back, it can be an enjoyable sound when you’re warm and cosy inside. You can’t change the weather, but practising mindfulness – being aware and present in the moment – may boost your mood.
“People undertaking mindfulness have shown increased activity in the area of the brain associated with positive emotion – the pre-frontal cortex – which is generally less active in people who are depressed,” according to the Mental Health Foundation.
Try to exercise outside
When it’s damp, it can be tempting to hibernate inside, but numerous studies have linked getting outside in nature with improving mental health, even if it’s just for a quick walk.
If you’ve got into a habit of daily exercise outside during lockdown, try to keep it up. Or if you really can’t bear going out in the rain, make sure you’re still getting that hit of feel-good endorphins with this roundup of our favourite home fitness apps – most of which can be done from your living room.
Help others to help yourself
Numerous studies have linked volunteering with improvements in mental health, suggesting that helping others has the added benefit of helping yourself.
If you’re feeling deflated because the weather is rubbish, make a plan to spread a little kindness – there are plenty of people in need during lockdown. You could volunteer or donate to help NHS workers, or sign up to a local community group.
Get enough light in your day
Whether you’re experiencing SAD or a more general case of the weather blues, ensuring you’re getting enough light may help. You could try light therapy, which involves using a light box or clock – such as a Lumi alarm clock – that mimics natural sunlight.
It’s not fully known why sunlight appears to have such an impact on our mood, but Anxiety UK estimates that light therapy can improve symptoms of SAD for 80% of people.
If you don’t want to buy a light, try to sit near windows when you’re indoors (even if it’s grey), and make your work and home environments as light and airy as possible.
Plan some enjoyable activities
The days can easily roll into one at the moment and on grey days, the lack of distinction between day and evening doesn’t help. To differentiate your working day with your downtime at home, plan some fun indoor activities.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: email@example.com
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.